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Wrist Pain From Bench Pressing

author image Eric Brown
Eric Brown began writing professionally in 1990 and has been a strength and conditioning coach and exercise physiologist for more than 20 years. His published work has appeared in "Powerlifting USA," "Ironsport" and various peer-reviewed journals. Brown has a Bachelor of Science in exercise physiology from the University of Michigan and a Master of Science in kinesiology from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Wrist Pain From Bench Pressing
A young man performing bench presses with dumbbells in a weight room. Photo Credit Vstock LLC/VStock/Getty Images

The bench press is one of the most popular exercises. If you are experiencing pain, you should visit a physician as there may be an issue that requires medical attention. There are some common reasons for wrist pain -- some simple, some a bit more complex -- but many can be dealt with by changes in exercise technique and altering your training program.

Technical Errors

Too wide or too narrow a hand placement on the bar could lead to problems. Place your hands 22 to 28 inches apart depending on your size. When benching, do not allow your wrists to bend so that your hands are bent back towards your chest. Your hands should be straight out from your arms, like you were attempting to "punch" the weight up. Failure to do this can result in inflammation of the tendons of the wrist, or uneven pressure on the bones of the wrist. Also, you need to wrap your thumb around the bar -- do not keep your thumb on the same side of the bar as the rest of your hand. This also helps make it less likely that your wrists will bend.

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Muscular Imbalance

If you do a lot of heavy carrying, the muscles on one side of your forearm may be well-developed, but the extensors of the wrist, or the muscles on top of your forearm, might be getting very little work. Reverse wrist curls, in which you hold a barbell in both hands with your forearms parallel to the ground and extend your hands towards the ceiling, may help. If you need a greater range of motion, you can use a dumbbell and train one hand at a time.


This is the large muscle on top of your forearm, and it is fairly active when you bench press. If you fail to go to to full extension on the bench press, you need to change this and work through a full range of motion. Should this be a problem, you may wish to strengthen the area with hammer curls, in which you curl a dumbbell upward without twisting your wrist, or reverse grip curls, where you curl a barbell upward with your palms facing down. For greater effect on this exercise, keep your thumb on the same side of the bar as the rest of your hand.


If the bar is not stable while you are bench pressing, there is a good chance that many of the muscles of your forearms are weak. This can be corrected with the previously described exercises. If the bar wobbles from side to side while you're benching, this can have a negative effect on the stability of your wrists, but you cannot fix this with training your forearms, as your support structure is weak. Additional training for the wide muscles of the back and the external rotators may help, but if you are extremely unsteady, you may wish to simply lower the weight and work on improving technique.

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